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John O’Donoghue


Year Joined MKLM: 2006

Country: Bolivia

City: Cochabamba

Ministry: Missionaries of Charity, HIV/AIDS Shelter

Ministry Area: Health

Goals of Ministry: To accompany the men daily and help them rebuild their self-confidence and self-esteem, to bring a sense of hope back into their lives, and through daily exercises and physical therapy help them on the road to recovery. 

Ministry Context:

Many of the men we work with, both those living with HIV/AIDS and those with other health issues, suffer from depression, and all are abandoned. The Missionaries of Charity are the only family they have, and their emotional support — along with the various medical and other services provided by the sisters — is critical to the well-being of the patients.


Current Ministry:

John serves in a men’s HIV/AIDS Shelter with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (of Calcutta, India). In addition to patients living with AIDS, there are other patients with various ailments such as cancer and mental illness, amputees, patients with broken limbs as a result of work-related injuries and traffic accidents, patients who have suffered strokes, and a few patients who are old and homeless. Currently there are 16 patients at the shelter; all have been abandoned.

John assists these patients daily as they go about their exercises in the sisters’ outdoor rehab center in the garden. He supervises them to make sure they don’t fall, and in addition he provides physical therapy to those who need it. He gives them their various medicines at the appointed hour and attends to their personal hygiene needs such as shaving, assisting with bathing and restroom needs and preparing them for hospital visits. He also assists the staff in serving lunch to all the men, and arranges recreational games to help them relax. An important part of John’s work is to help the men “keep their spirits up.”


Personal Data:

John is originally from County Tipperary, Ireland. Before joining Maryknoll Lay Missioners, he lived in Norwood, Massachusetts, where he was a parishioner at St. Timothy Parish. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, and a post-graduate diploma in development studies from Cambridge University in England. John worked in India, Sri Lanka, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, and Sudan with organizations such as Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the U.S. Peace Corps, Save the Children, and the U.N. World Food Program.

John joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners at the age of 53. Before coming to Bolivia, he served in Aileu, East Timor; and Kitale, Kenya. At the St. Francis of Assisi Workshop in East Timor, he administered a program that made specialized shoes, hand-powered tricycles and wheelchairs for people living with disabilities. In Kenya, John served in the gender department of the Catholic Diocese of Kitale, where he worked with women’s groups and men’s groups on income generating projects and microfinancing to help alleviate poverty and increase a person’s self-reliance.

When he moved to Bolivia, he did not know that St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity worked in Cochabamba and other parts of the country. “But when I walked in their gate,” he remembers. “I felt right at home and knew that working with the Sisters would be a good fit for me as a Maryknoll lay missioner. Now almost six years later, I am still on the job, and as St. Teresa of Calcutta would say, ‘I am doing small things with great love.’ I had the great privilege of working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta in 1994.”